Hawaii vs. Arizona Game Preview: Get To Know The Wildcats
Week 0 is here, know the foe.
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Hawaii and Arizona are gearing up for Week 0 this week and it is a big game for the Warriors who are taking on a likely improved Wildcats team.
To get to know the Wildcats we chatted with deputy editor Brian Pedersen if Arizona Desert Storm. We ask the questions people want to know like who are the key players, outcomes, what to watch, and who will win this game.
What will be the difference in the second year under Kevin Sumlin?
More than anything, this team isn’t going to be able to blame depth or numbers for anything that happens. Rich Rodriguez left Sumlin with a fair amount of talent in some areas, but very little in others, and there were times last season when Arizona was incredibly thin in places like cornerback and the offensive and defensive lines.
Not anymore. There can also be no excuses related to scheme, as there were with the change from RichRod’s spread to Noel Mazzone’s more pro-style offense.
Will QB Khalil Tate live up to his hype that has been placed upon him during his career?
I guess it depends on which hype you’re referring to. He was well-regarded coming out of high school, but no one knew what he was capable of. When he burst onto the scene midway through the 2017 season, he basically just lived off speed and athleticism and Arizona rode those coattails, but then Sumlin and Mazzone arrived and it was foolish in hindsight to think Tate would just pick up where he left off.
It didn’t help he injured his left ankle in the second game and was hobbled the rest of last season, but that lack of mobility actually helped him focus more on passing and he was much improved in that area.
For his final season to be considered successful, at least from an individual standpoint, it will require finding a balance between the rampant running numbers he had as a sophomore and the promising passing ones he put up as a junior.
What is the biggest concern about this team?
Red zone offense and third down defense were the biggest killers in 2018, and both remain question marks heading into this season. Arizona scored touchdowns barely 50 percent of the time in the red zone and its defense was like a swinging gate on third down, allowing conversions about one-third of the time on third and long.
What are the expectations with the Wildcats defense?
Arizona added to massive junior college defensive tackles and now has a legitimate eight-man rotation for a four-man front, so a lot is expected from that group. Junior JB Brown can play all over and sophomore Jalen Harris is primed for a monster year as an edge rusher, and if that D-line can do its job that opens the door for junior linebackers Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II to rack up big numbers again. The secondary is healthy and deep, so expect more than the five interceptions the back line registered in 2018.
Arizona has a sizable talent and skill advantage over Hawaii, so this should be a comfortable win for the Wildcats. But that’s on paper, and based as much off last year’s results as this season’s expectations. A loss would completely derail any offseason moment Arizona generated, but I think it comes away with a two-score victory.